It comes down to class size and composition for parents rallying outside Westside-Kelowna MLA Christy Clark’s office, on Tuesday morning.
The nearly 80 protesters seemed to be in consensus that the focus of the teacher’s dispute was not about wages, as Education Minister Peter Fassbender had implied in an open letter , which claimed the BCTF is demanding twice the increase over what other public servants have agreed to.
It’s not just about too many kids in the class, says rally organizer Sara Neukomm.
“It’s about kids who need the extra resources, then those kids they sort of get lost, they get lost in the shuffle.”
Jennifer Angeli agrees, she is visiting from Vancouver and with no school in session she saw no reason to return home right away.
“There are 30 kids in her class,” Angeli says pointing at her daughter. “She isn’t getting the support that she needs and in other classes they have special needs kids that don’t have the support, it has become like baby sitting. It’s not education anymore.”
Children used chalk on pavement and markers on construction paper in front of Clark’s office instead of on notebooks at their desks. Many made posters that read ‘I miss my friends’ while others wrote in chalk ‘boo you’ with an arrow pointing to the MLA’s office door.
Angeli’s daughter Sapphire waved her ‘I want to go back to school’ poster at the passing vehicles on Dobbin road, and explains she missed her friends and teachers.
“I love being here protesting for the teachers and (I’m) saying that Christy Clark is a liar and I don’t like Christy Clark,” Sappire says shaking her fist.
When asked why he wanted to go to school, a small boy named Dex says, “Because I want to learn!”
He was supposed to start his first day of school today, but instead he is on the sidelines holding a large green sign that reads, ‘I thought I was going to start kindergarten today, who will teach me to read now? Fund public education.'
The prospect of losing public education for privatization, weighed on many of those who attend the rally.
Federal NDP candidate for North Okanagan-‐Shuswap, Jacqui Gingras made the trip to West Kelowna for the event and says she has spoken with several provincial NDP candidates who are asking for Fassbender’s resignation due to his failed attempt at negotiation in this dispute.
“This is a crucial moment in BC, the future of public education is at stake,” she says. “So we are here to support the teachers and make sure public education has integrity moving forward, because it is the most important thing in our society.”
Retired teacher Chris Funk is also taking issue with Fassbender, saying the education minister is not following through with his mandate of providing children with the right to education.
“I would like to see him drop his third appeal against bills 22 and 28, and use the money that is going to legal fees and court costs to put into our education system.”
Christy Clark was not at her MLA office and those inside did not provide a comment. The BC federation of labour will also rally at the Premier's office on Dobbin Road on Wednesday at 4 p.m.